Graduation Gala finalists 2017, with conductor Uwe Grodd
2017 Graduation Gala finalists, Sara Lee (piano), Joella Pinto (violin) and Julie Park (viola) pictured with Conductor, Uwe Grodd

Graduation Gala Concerto Competition Event as iCalendar

Each year in early May, the University of Auckland stages the annual Graduation Gala Concerto Competition, concurrent with the University’s Autumn Graduation ceremonies.

Established in 2007, the Graduation Gala celebrates the outstanding talent and dedication of our students, and the exceptional quality of teaching across the School of Music. With a reputation for delivering a popular and prestigious occasion, this university-wide celebration of graduating students regularly pulls in audiences exceeding 1,500, as three of the school’s finest classical musicians take to the stage to compete for a prize pool of $15,000, and a chance to advance thier solo careers.

2017 saw undergraduate pianist Sara Lee delight an at-capacity crowd with a striking performance of Tchaikovsky’s much loved Piano Concerto in B flat minor. The Auckland-based musician, who is in her second year of a Bachelor of Music degree, has been playing the piano since she was six years old, and has recently been selected as Accademia Pianistca Siciliana Artist, embarking on an extensive concert tour of Italy.

Sara joins violinist Eugene Lee, inaugural winner of the competition in 2007, on a growing list of Grad Gala success stories. Like many of our winners, Eugene’s potential has taken him further afield, currently finding him London-based as Associate Leader of the Southbank Sinfonia and 1st Violin for the Philharmonia Orchestra.

Just one year on since flautist Anna Cooper’s crowning Grad Gala moment in 2016, and she is already making moves in the creative community. Having achieved a Bachelor of Music with First Class Honours at the University, Anna now divides her time between both a New Zealand Symphony Orchestra fellowship and an Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra internship, not to mention managing a full teaching schedule of aspiring flautists and a very active concert calendar! Furthermore, violinist Amalia Hall has recently been appointed as Concertmaster for Orchestra Wellington and has been making worldwide waves as an international concerto and recital soloist since her Grad Gala win in 2008.

Bearing testament to Grad Gala, Amalia says, “Ever since I can remember, it was evident to me that being a musician was my vocation, and I continually feel so fortunate to have been able to make this dream a reality. Winning the Grad Gala in 2008 was a great affirmation of this, and a wonderful experience to cap off my time at The University of Auckland before beginning my postgraduate studies at Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music.”

2017 winner, Sara Lee
Bradley Wood's 2015 winning performance. Pictured here with Conductor Leo Phillips.

The Graduation Gala Concerto Competition is an annual event which is free and open to the public.

To learn more about the University’s Graduation Gala Concerto Competition, and other events hosted by the School of Music, please refer to our comprehensive events page.